WAEC English Marking Scheme (How SSCE Essays Are Marked)

Last Updated on March 13, 2020 by Ope Quadri

The West African Examinations Council is an examination body that conducts examinations in Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Gambia, and Liberia. In this post, I’ll share with you four criteria WAEC uses to mark English essays. The tips herein are also similar to NECO English marking scheme.


Check below for WAEC timetable for 2020 August West African Examinations Council

The National Examination Council (NECO) is an examination body exclusively for Nigeria.
In this post, I’ll also share some tips with you on how to draw your plan on your preferred choice.

Criteria used by WAEC or NECO examiners to mark English Essay:

  1. C: Content (10 marks)
  2. O: Organisation (10 marks)
  3. E: Expression (20 marks)
  4. MA: Mechanical Accuracy (10 marks)

In all, your essay is 50 marks. The acronym for these criteria is COEM. If you like, you can refer to above criteria as WAEC English marking scheme.
Let’s take the above point one after the other for a full explanation and how you can leverage on them to score A1 in your SSCE English Language.
Note: For essay, the instruction is usually “Your essay should not be less than 450 words” you must pay attention to this.


Content has to do with the relevance of your ideas to the topic and its specific audience and purpose.
Does your idea align with the topic you’ve chosen? Are you using the appropriate language?
Are your points relevant to the central theme and its development? Pay attention to this and ensure that your approach is original.
Try as you can to avoid injecting irrelevant ideas in your essay in a bid to make up the number.
You will be penalised if you injected irrelevant ideas into your essay.

How to write good content:

  • Make sure you understand the topic before jumping on it.
  • Ensure that the topic you pick is something you can effectively deal with.
  • Let your topic be something you have enough points on, very important.

According to Lagos Books Club, “Following the rules of grammar and punctuation judiciously is not sufficient, a passage without errors of language can be considered badly phrased or difficult to follow based on form and content.”


Organisation in your essay either in WAEC or NEC is very important. This isn’t limited to examination, in your speech and writing, you must perfectly arrange points.
This refers to the correct use of formal features such as good paragraphing, appropriate use of emphasis and arrangement of ideas. Paragraphs are expected to be chronologically, spatially and logically coherent.
It is advisable to have one point per paragraph, don’t cluster your points in one paragraph.

How to achieve great organisation in your English Essay

  • Examiners will always lookout for a good opening
  • Examiners will look out for adequate development into paragraphs
  • Make sure that there is balance and unity.
  • Let your paragraphs flow from one to the other to achieve coherence.
  • Ensure you have a logical flow of the paragraph.


Your expression carries the highest mark in English essays in NECO and WAEC. This where you put your power of English expression and writing into work.
The expression refers to the perfect use of grammar. Your expression must also be controlled and the structure of the sentence.
The good expression will make your essay sound. It is an act of making your points known in clear words and sentences. Don’t be ambiguous.

How to achieve good expression in WAEC essay writing

  • Try not to use phrases such as: “In my opinion”
  • Avoid redundant word phrases.
  • Use linkers or linking words.

Linking Words you can use in English Essays are:

  • thereby,
  • consequently,
  • subsequently,
  • in addition,
  • beside that,
  • additionally,
  • furthermore,
  • moreover,
  • on the other hand,
  • on the contrary,
  • also,
  • however,
  • not only that

You don’t necessarily need to use “big” vocabulary when you have simple and easy to understand words that can convey the message appropriately.
Write to express and convey your message, don’t write to impress

Mechanical Accuracy

Your use of grammar, punctuation, and spelling fall under mechanical accuracy. Your errors fall under mechanical accuracy. Each attracts 1/2 mark.

Important tips to know about NECO and WAEC essays

Credit will be awarded for what is done right while the penalty will be given for errors.
You’re expected to write at least 450 words, but when a composition is below 450 words, the required length the maximum mark for M.A shall be proportionately reduced.
If a candidate writes on a topic that is irrelevant to the question set, zero shall be awarded for content and organization.

Can I attempt more than one essay?

No. And there is no penalty for this, only the first one answered will be marked.

How WAEC Results Are Graded

In one of our posts, we talked about the grading system in Nigeria, but let’s take a quick look at the WAEC grading system.

  • 0 – 39 (%) – F9
  • 40 – 44 (%) – E8
  • 45 – 49 (%) – D7
  • 50 – 54 (%) – C6
  • 55 – 59 (%) – C5
  • 60 – 64 (%) – C4
  • 65 – 69 (%) – B3
  • 70 – 74 (%) – B2
  • 75 – 100 (%) – A1

Objective questions take 40% while 60% goes to the theory.

Tips on how to prepare and Pass WAEC at one sitting

  • Read the recommended texts
  • Get past questions, compare and contrast to see some of the questions that are repeated nearly every year.
  • Revive what you’ve read before the exam date
  • Don’t be tensed, ensure to relax before the exam date
  • In the exam hall, don’t panic.
  • Read the instructions when the question is given
  • Avoid any activity that could lead to being penalised by the invigilator
  • Read through the questions at least two times
  • Select the question which you have a comparative advantage on
  • Attempt the question that’s simple first to gain more time for those that looked technical.
  • Don’t waste time on a particular question
  • Try to finish before time, at least gain 20 minutes or more to go through your answers before submission. Avoid rush that could be costly.
  • Check you name, exam number, and centre before submission.
  • Strive as much as can to have your score fall between 60-75, this way you’re sure of at least C4, A1 is even better, you can do it.

Do you have questions on any of the tips shared above? Kindly use the comment box below to join start a conversation on WAEC marking scheme for English language and tips on how to pass in WAEC and NECO.

WAEC Timetable for 2020 August West African Examinations Council

All the best.

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